A POPULAR cycle route along the Somerset coast could soon be extended inland after a major new housing development was finally signed off.

The Steam Coast Trail is sandwiched between the West Somerset Railway line and the west Somerset Coast, and is eventually intended to link Minehead to Williton via the neighbouring villages.

The Wyndham Estate promised to provide funding to extend the active travel route under outlines plans for 350 new homes on the A39 Priest Street in Williton, which Somerset West and Taunton councillors voted to approve in October 2021.

Outline planning permission has now finally been issued following the signing of legal agreements between the Wyndham Estate and Somerset Council (which replaced the district council in April 2023) – meaning the delivery of the new sections could begin within the next two years.

The Steam Coast Trail will eventually run all the way from Minehead seafront to the northern edge of Williton – though it is currently not a complete, off-road route.

Currently, Minehead residents can either walk along the recently-reopened coast path (following the completion of a coastal defence scheme near the Minehead and West Somerset Golf Club) or use the cycle path along the A39 to Dunster Marsh before moving onto Sea Lane.

The first phase of the trail, which opened in December 2016, runs from Dunster Beach car park almost all the way to Blue Anchor seafront, not far from the recently completed coastal defence scheme near the Anchor’s Drop site.

The majority of this route is hard-standing, being either Tarmac or Netpave (which involves packing square plastic grids with locally sourced stone chips, allowing the trail to be ‘topped up’ after extreme weather).

However, the final stretch near Blue Anchor runs on the shingle beach – and cyclists have to dismount and carry their bikes up the steps to the B3191.

Phase two of the trail, which opened in October 2018, runs from Dragon’s Cross in Old Cleeve to the Cobbler’s Steps in Washford, to the north of the West Somerset Railway station.

Somerset County Gazette: The masterplan of the 350-home development.The masterplan of the 350-home development. (Image: Thrive Architects)

Cyclists from there can cycle a short distance on the road before joining the Mineral Line, which runs all the way to Watchet seafront.

From there, there must use local roads or a narrow, steep footpath to reach the planned terminus at the northern edge of Williton.

Under the approved plans, the Wyndham Estate has promised to provided £200,000 to deliver 1.5 kilometres (almost one mile) of the Steam Coast Trail, along with £500,000 for new walking and cycling links between the development site and the village.

An additional £200,000 will be provided for a new toucan crossing on the B3191 Five Bells, providing safer access to the nearby Danesfield Church of England School.

A council spokesman said: “There is no precise agreed route at present. The applicant/ developer will provide a 1,500- metre stretch of the Steam Coast Trail within land that they control.

“The legal agreement states that it will run from Five Bells to Doniford Road.

“We would support engagement with the Steam Coast Trail volunteer group regarding the design of the route.

“The pedestrian and cycle routes shall link the development site to Shutgate Meadow, North Road and Priest Street.”

While outline planning permission for the site has been secured, a reserved matters application (covering the design and layout of the new homes) must still be submitted and approved before construction can get under way.

The Orchard Brooks development on Doniford Road was brought forward by the Wyndham Estate, but was ultimately delivered by Linden Homes (with support from Magna Housing).

A council spokesman said: “The reserved matters application is required to be submitted no later than two years from the date of the outline permission being signed off, which was February 12, 2024.

“Thus, the reserved matters application will need to be submitted by February 12, 2026. No more precise information about submission dates at present.”

A decision is expected shortly on the Wyndham Estate’s proposals for a further 230 homes on the Parsonage Farm site on the B3191 Brendon Road in Watchet.

For more information on the Steam Coast Trail – including a map of the planned extensions and how to make a donation – visit www.steamcoasttrail.org.